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Archive for Saturday, December 13, 2003

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December 13, 2003

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Afghanistan

Historic constitution council delayed for a second time

A historic council set to decide on a new Afghan constitution has been delayed for the second time in less than a week, officials said Friday.

The grand council, or loya jirga, was to begin today but will be put off for 24 hours, said a press spokesman, Sultan Baheen.

He said some of the 500 delegates still had not been able to reach Kabul, in part because of bad weather. Once they arrive, delegates must go through an orientation, another reason for the delay.

"Some of the delegates are still not in Kabul so the secretariat asked the president to postpone the opening session from Saturday to Sunday," Baheen said.

Italy

Kyoto climate-pact backers report progress at meeting

Many countries plan to go ahead with their Kyoto Protocol commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions even if the treaty doesn't come into force, officials said Friday at the close of a U.N. climate change conference in Milan.

Several participants expressed confidence that it was only a matter of time before Russia, whose support is crucial to the treaty, comes on board.

Because its emission levels have plunged along with its economy, Russia stands to earn billions of dollars by selling emission credits under a key feature of the treaty.

Russia's participation in Kyoto became vital after the United States ruled out joining two years ago out of concern the pact could cost millions of American jobs.

JERUSALEM

U.N. energy agency believes Israel has nuclear weapons

The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said in an interview published Friday that he believes Israel has nuclear weapons and suggested Israel rid itself of the stockpile to promote Mideast peace.

Mohamed ElBaradei also revealed that he has toured some of Israel's nuclear plants, although not the reactor in the town of Dimona where it is believed Israel produces arms.

ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, spoke to the Israeli daily Haaretz at his office in Vienna.

ElBaradei said he could not confirm independently that Israel had nuclear arms, but that "we work on the assumption that Israel has nuclear capability."

"I haven't seen that Israel ever denied it," he added.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Emergency workers can seek redress for smallpox injuries

Emergency response workers who developed health problems from smallpox vaccinations can seek compensation from the federal government, the Health and Human Services Department said Friday.

More than 38,000 medical care workers, police, firefighters and other emergency responders have been vaccinated against smallpox under an emergency response plan that went into effect last January.

Under rules announced Friday, those injured by the smallpox vaccine will be able to seek compensation from a $42 million program that provides financial and medical benefits.

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